It’s Cancer

July 31, 2021 – Post #1

The Prairie just before a storm
Everything was about to change

Just Before the Storm

A week ago today I was driving up to a friend’s lake cottage in Indiana and was astonished at how brilliant the sky ahead of me was. I remember thinking, “that’s just gorgeous,” then suddenly feeling uneasy. It was around nine at night. Instinctively I realized the sky was way too bright so close to sunset. The thought crossed my mind, “Is there about to be a tornado?” I was sort of in the middle of nowhere at that moment.

Looking out the window to my right, there was a menacing triangular cloud overhead that made me shrink in my seat and regret not checking the weather. I cringed – and smirked at the same time – thinking, “My mom would have checked the weather; maybe I should get in that habit.”

I knew if she knew my whereabouts she would have gladly checked it for me.

My Mom’s Love Language

Her love language seems to be worrying about the weather for friends and family – faithfully tracking humidity levels and rainfall, or lack thereof, and especially storm patterns, so she can gauge just how concerned she should be. We like to give her a hard time about it.

Well, right about then the skies opened up in a deluge of rain. The corn and soybean fields on either side of the road disappeared. All I could see was a brief stretch of two lane road through my wipers and vague traces of taillights in front of me.

This was the kind of rain where you have to turn the radio off to think. Gripping the steering wheel, I took a brief glance in the rear view mirror and was rather horrified to see a smokey-black wall seeming to chase me from behind, threatening to envelop everything in it’s path.

Trusting God in the Storm

Overwhelmed in that moment, I heard a still small voice in my heart, which I recognized as God the Father, saying, “I want you to trust Me like you’ve never trusted Me before.”

It seemed so crystal clear that my first instinct was to ask: “Is that statement for this moment, or for my life? Am I about to be in an accident or something, or are You saying that to prepare me for what’s ahead in life?” I wasn’t given an answer, but that thought was clearly impressed upon my heart.

Despite hardly being able to see, I kept going, feeling it was safer to move forward by faith than pull over in fear and risk getting hit from behind.

A scripture came to mind which has comforted me many times before, “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.” (Isaiah 50:10 KJV)

And so I did. I decided not to be afraid.

When I arrived at the lake house, unscathed, the rains had dissipated and the sun had disappeared, but the sky kept lighting up. I stood on the shore, watching the magnificence of far away flashes highlight the otherwise invisible clouds.

A natural light show was echoing off the placid waters, and in my heart, I felt God remind me that He had gotten me through that storm, and now I could look back at what He’d brought me through, in awe of His handiwork. And there was a calm assurance: I could trust Him for the future, too. It was one of those times in life that makes a lasting impression.

Sunset over the water
Sunset Over the Water

I spent the weekend getting some writing done, watching turtles, and wondering what the Lord was wanting me to do next – I’d made a commitment through the end of July, but after that just wasn’t sure what to do and felt like there were too many options and variables. It’s not an unfamiliar place for me to be, but I tend to wrestle with my thoughts and apprehensions every time, even though something always comes up.

Two days later, something did again.

Pike Street Memories

I was driving back to Wabash, Indiana; where I have spent much of the last two and a half years. I had just pulled onto Pike Street. That road holds a lot of family history for us. It’s where my mom and grandparents grew up and has been the backdrop for so many family stories, which I’ve been trying to record for the last couple of years.

We laugh about the time my grandpa got in his truck, planning to just back across the road from their driveway to his mother’s farm. My mom, about eight years old, announced, “I want to go with you!” He was in a hurry, and a little annoyed she didn’t just walk there – especially since she didn’t get the door shut in time, and he inadvertently ripped it off on the mulberry tree. Okay, maybe he was more than annoyed, but that sort of thing makes for the funniest family memories – and the sort of thing I think about when I’m driving down that road.

At other times I think of the sadness that’s taken place on Pike Street – of the heartbreaking family funeral processions which have lead to the Friends cemetery further out in the country.

It’s been nearly two years since we buried my mom’s younger brother, Danny. I remember his hearse passing the home-place’s of both sets of his grandparents, his childhood house, and even having a cousin waved into the line of funeral procession cars, because she’d just gotten back home from the airport, all on the same road that leads to the cemetery. We’d just taken that route the week before, when we said goodbye to my mom’s precious Aunt Ruth, who’d also grown up on that road.

It’s the same street my grandma used to walk down to get to choir practice on Thursday nights, when Danny, as a boy, would run out to the sidewalk, check on her whereabouts, then run back to the screen door, announcing, “She’s gone!” which meant it was safe for their dad to let the outside dog inside and start making the family supper – his specialty – popcorn and fudge.

Beth and Dave Purcell Wedding Day
Pike Street stretches outside the city limits, passed the cemetery, and alongside my grandparent’s farm, where my mom and dad got married.

And now Pike Street is a place I’ll remember for one more thing. Monday night, at about ten, when I’d returned to Wabash, my phone lit up. In the dark, the screen said, “Mom”. I was almost to my destination, but decided to pull over.

As a family, we’d spent that day going back and forth between texts and phone calls, agreeing she ought to go into the ER. After a barium swallow to check her esophagus about a week and a half before, she hadn’t really been able to keep food down. At first the barium was suspected, then she thought it might be her gallbladder.

Her stomach pain reminded her of when she had hepatitis as a child. I was concerned she might be having liver failure. My sister, Megan, thought her eyes looked slightly yellow a few days before. My mom was convinced they didn’t look yellow, but I’d reminded her that since her cataract surgery, she’d thought her neighbor’s yellow house looked white (back then, I’d given her strict instructions not to eat snow, since she couldn’t discern the very important distinction between those two colors). We all knew something was wrong, but weren’t sure what it was.

I’ve Got Pancreatic Cancer

Pulling over on Pike Street, I answered her call, and she told me they’d just walked in the door from the hospital, then paused to gather her words:

“It’s not good.”

She started crying.

I’ve got pancreatic cancer.”

Tears were streaming down my face as I listened to her tell me about the tests, but in the background there was and is that still small voice saying, “I want you to trust Me like you’ve never trusted Me before.”

The next day, I was back in St Louis. God got me there for $5.60 and some free airline miles. He has a way of taking care of His children.

I know He’s telling me to trust Him in this storm, just like in the tangible one I went through last week.

Writing About this Cancer Journey

In starting this page, I hope to bring glory to God for what He does in our lives during this difficult time, and to help keep people informed on my mom’s condition. So many of you have reached out to show love and concern for her and our family, and we so appreciate it.

It’s a hard balance to know how to spend this time together – do we turn our cellphones off, or leave them on? In the age of social media, texting, and calls, it’s so easy to connect with people all over the world, but sometimes difficult to connect with people in the same room, because of so much technology at our fingertips distracting us from each other.

Erica and I were teasing our mom yesterday that we’re going to bury her with her cellphone up to her ear. They just got rid of their landline, but before that, she was famous for “working the switchboards” with a phone in each hand, asking us to hold on a second, while she took another call.

I know my mom has in her mind many people she wants to call, and many she wants to keep up with, but she keeps saying, “I’m just so tired.”

Having said that, I don’t at all want to hinder anyone from reaching out. I also understand what it’s like to be wondering ‘should I, or shouldn’t I call? I want to show I care and want to know what’s going on, but don’t want to call or text at a bad time, etc…’

I thought this page could help answer questions and allow people to show their love and support, and feel involved more freely.

She was able to keep down a little food yesterday – but has mostly just had liquids the past two weeks. She has some pain in her stomach, but says she feels better while lying down.

So far, we don’t know a lot. She has a biopsy Monday and a doctor’s appointment August 9th. I will try to update this page when I can.

Thank you for checking in.

– Jody

Click here to read about my mom’s biopsy in Post #2.


I'm not sure what to say here: I once got second place in a dog-look-alike-contest? I know how to fold a fitted sheet? I'm pretty much a poster child for social backwardness - at least as far as social media is concerned; but I have some stories I think I'm supposed to share and am attempting to do that here, in this space.

2 thoughts on “It’s Cancer

  1. Jody,
    It’s not about the other people. It’s about you and your mom and your family. How you grieve during this time is going to look and be very different than the next person. Here is my take, what a privilege it is that those that car options perhaps have never walked this road. what’s that saying about glass houses?

    Your writing is healing for you and so many others. The truth is this is beyond hard. There are no words. I feel your mom in the writing when you share laughter… because her laugh is joyous and amazing.

    also dementia- I’m walking that with my mom. Some of the most painful moments of myife.

    love all of you

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